This is a pretty good Houston Rockets team the Warriors beat tonight. 16-12 overall, something like 13-4 in their last 17 games coming into Oracle.
If this keeps up, Adam Lauridsen is going to start pulling his hair out. Watching games like the last two, I would hate to have to keep thinking up reasons why Monta Ellis, Stephen Curry and David Lee are not good enough to be the core of a perennial playoff contender. That’s gotta be hard.
Which is the better Big Three? The Warriors’ Ellis, Curry and Lee or the Rockets’ Martin, Lowry and Scola? There probably hasn’t been a better backcourt in the league so far this season than Lowry and Martin. But I didn’t see the “undersized” Ellis and Curry get outplayed in this game, did you? Quite the contrary.
Luis Scola is universally admired as a winning power forward. But he doesn’t do one single thing better than David Lee. And especially rebound, where Lee has him beat by an average of 3 a game over the last several seasons. I wonder, does anyone in Houston call Luis Scola “soft”? I ask that because that’s the word being put out on David Lee and his 18 points and 10 rbs per game by Adam Lauridsen and Tim Kawakami and their minions.
I happen to think that the Warriors’ Big Three — if played in the right system — are far better than the Rockets’. But to avoid argument let’s call them roughly equal. So why is it that the Rockets have such a significantly better record than the Warriors?
Samuel Dalembert v. Andris Biedrins and Kwame Brown: Regular readers no doubt guessed where I was going with this. I’ve been talking about Dalembert for some time, because Joe Lacob passed him over, at exactly the same salary, in order to inaugurate the execrable Kwame Brown Era.
We got to see just how much better Dalembert is than Kwame Brown in the first quarter of this game. Dalembert stuffed every drive the Warriors took — three blocked shots — and his presence in the middle contributed a lot to the nervousness that led the Warriors to turn the ball over so many times. At 2 blocks per game, Dalembert is one of the premier shot blocking centers in the NBA.
Can you guess how many shots Kwame Brown blocked in his 9 games of action for the Warriors? Zero. ZERO.
See, Kwame Brown doesn’t do blocks. He is a “position” defender.
Dalembert is also a capable offensive player. We saw him hit the open jumper at 11:25 3Q. He’s also not afraid to catch the ball under the basket and put it in. Because he converts his free throws at 88%.
Here’s Dalembert in 2011 for the Rockets: 7.6 pts, 7.7 rbs, 2 blks, 88% FT
Here’s Biedrins: 2.6 pts, 4.9 rbs, 1.3 blks, 20% FT
And the Kwame Brown Era: 6.3 pts, 6.3 rbs, 0 blks, 44% FT
I happen to think that the presence of Samuel Dalembert in the middle has been a major contributor to the Rockets’ success, just as the presence of Biedrins and Brown in the middle has been a major contributor to the Warriors’ struggles.
So why in the world did Joe Lacob pass over Dalembert in favor of the Kwame Brown Era, at the same price? I and at least one Warriors beat reporter believe it’s because Dalembert wanted a second year to his contract. And he got that, although the Rockets have the right to buy him out of the second year for a paltry $1.5 million.
And Andris Biedrins… Did you happen to see that pick and roll play between Curry and Biedrins at 8:40 3Q? When he set the pick, Biedrins never even bothered to look back at Curry as he rolled to the basket. He didn’t want the ball. Andris Biedrins has given up as a basketball player.
So why in the world did Joe Lacob refuse to amnesty the all-but-dead Andris Biedrins before this season, so that he could afford a REAL bid on Tyson Chandler or DeAndre Jordan?
I have been asking these questions all season long, and I’m going to keep asking them, as it becomes more and more apparent just how easy it would have been for a GM that really cared about winning now to take the great Warriors Big Three to the playoffs.
Goran Dragic v. No one (err… Nate Robinson): When Daryl Morey, the Rockets GM, traded away Aaron Brooks, he made sure he got a veteran point guard back. Because, you know, veteran backup point guards are extremely important for teams that want to win basketball games.
So why is it that Joe Lacob has seen fit to deprive the Warriors of a veteran backup point guard these last two seasons? I don’t count Nate Robinson, because we all know that Nate Robinson would not even be on this Warriors team if it hadn’t been for Stephen Curry’s injury. Ish Smith would. And I don’t count Ish Smith for the same reason I don’t count Acie Law.
Nate Robinson was a desperation signing. And as interesting a player as Nate has been at times, he does not give you the things that a solid backup point guard can give. He is just not all there mentally, as Mike D’Antoni and Doc Rivers and Scott Brooks — a trio of very good coaches — have already discovered. Nate is the kind of player you might want to put in a game when down 10 and needing a spark. He is absolutely not the kind of player you would want to put into the fourth quarter of a close game. As I think we saw tonight.
I think that when trying to build a playoff team around a talented Big Three, it is very helpful to have a GM who is capable of being fired. Those GMs tend to have an interest in winning.
Klay Thompson v. Dorell Wright and Brandon Rush
This comparison was really the theme of this game, wasn’t it? Mark Jackson left both Dorell Wright and Brandon Rush on the bench down the stretch, riding his hot rookie in the fourth quarter. And thereby no doubt added fuel to an already growing brushfire of debate among Warriors fans as to which of these players deserves to be starting, and playing the most minutes.
Thompson certainly played very well in this game. Someone apparently had a quiet word in his ear, because this was by far his best game on the boards. For the first time this season, he appeared to make a concerted effort to stick his nose into the action, which resulted in 4 boards for himself, and if my eyes didn’t deceive me, another couple of boards for his teammates. A nice improvement, that is absolutely necessary for this undersized gang-rebounding Warriors team.
Thompson certainly has every appearance of being a special player on the offensive end. Going beyond the obviously great shooting ability, his handle and playmaking ability are really remarkable — not just for a rookie, but for any NBA player.
There is a large contrast between Thompson and Rush in this regard. Rush just has terrible hands, awful really. He also has difficulty dribbling in traffic — we saw two horrid TOs in this game. And he’s not a playmaker for others.
Dorell Wright is a playmaker, though, as anyone who saw him average three assists playing point forward for the Warriors last year knows. And I’m curious to see how the battle for playing time plays out between Thompson and Wright this season.
As good as Thompson looks offensively, is he really better right now than Dorell Wright? Take a look at Wright’s line in this game. 3-4 and 2-2 from three. Is there a reason there why Wright only got 18 minutes?
Perhaps Jackson was dissatisfied with his defensive effort? I frequently am as well, but still believe that Wright on a bad night is better defensively than Thompson on a good.
The growing competition for minutes between Thompson, Wright and Rush can only be a good thing. If the effort is not there from one, the others will be more than happy to pick up the slack.
But it does tend to prove my point that Thompson won’t add much to the Warriors this season. In terms of minutes, it’s a zero sum game: Klay Thompson’s gain will be Dorell Wright’s loss.
Until Joe Lacob trades Monta Ellis.
Stephen Curry’s defense: Curry has very quietly turned in a couple of very good defensive games, against two of the league’s quickest and most adept scoring point guards, Ty Lawson and Kyle Lowry. Curry has an amazing knack for staying in front of these players, not getting faked by their cross-overs a bit. A testament to intelligence over athleticism.
Check him out stuffing Lowry’s runout at 9:50 3Q all by himself. I thought that was a shot-block. But then I have Curry on my fantasy team. (Does that make me a fantasy homer?)
How long until the pundits notice Curry’s improving defense?
The Nightmare: Ermmm….. +17? Wouldn’t you much rather have Greg Monroe of the 8-21 Pistons, who tonight ate a 21 point loss on their home floor, to the … Wizards? Hey, Monroe got his stats.
My second favorite play of the night: Robinson to Udoh pick and roll And One, 9:35 4Q. Yes, Udoh can catch the ball. The finish was significantly less than beautiful, though.
My favorite play of the night: 7:20 4Q, pick and roll Ellis to Lee for the up and under And One. That was one beautiful finish, that not many power forwards have in their bag of tricks.
How running after made baskets helps the free throw disparity: 10:10 3Q, after a DWright corner three, Dalembert to Lowry to a streaking KMart for the foul and free throws.
You didn’t think I was going to mention a Warriors play, did you?